When Do I Stop Marketing?

Marketing Mastication like incessant gum chewing

Is your marketing habitual mastication or deliberate observation?

Break the Marketing Mastication Habit

When do I stop marketing?” asks Ron, a friend of mine during a mastermind group I facilitate.

“What do you mean by that?” I reply.

“It seems easier to make decisions about new initiatives in your marketing, than to terminate existing ones.”

“Why do some people chew endlessly on a piece of gum?” I retort.

“Habit?” he ponders.

“Exactly.” I smile. “Sadly, there’s a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners still paying for some obsolete directory listing, or how about that annual order of cheap tchotchke pens? Maybe they can’t say no to that ad in the local high school football program. None of the marketing ingredients appear to yield anything of significance. We do it out of habit like some incessantly gum-chewing adolescent, we continue to masticate on something that yields no value.” [Read more…]

Tagline – Your Positioning Slogan

BRAND TAGLINES

Marketing Signature Ingredient #15

The Marketing Chef Logo

STIRRING UP SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE  BUSINESS

Part 2 – Tagline Keys

In the last post on marketing taglines and slogans we covered their importance as a marketing ingredient to position your product or service offering in the mind of your target market. To be memorable it needs to be:

  1. Short
  2. Distinctive – unusual combination of words, but
  3. General enough to be applied in different contexts

The Cornell University study also discovered that memorable marketing slogans, quotes and phrases use:

  •  More present tense verbs, versus past tense
  • Few pronouns (other than you),
  • The indefinite article “a” rather than the definite article “the”,

These all contribute to taglines that are more general than specific.

So let’s put this to the test. I took the first ten of Forbes List of 20 Best-Loved Taglines: [Read more…]

Brand Taglines – Your Key Marketing Ingredient to Position your Offering

BRAND TAGLINES

Marketing Signature Ingredient #15

Marketing Ingredient # 015 - Your Brand Tagline

Photo: M. A. Makky

Part 1 – Tagline Basics

When you think of a company, product, or service, what is one of the first things that come to mind?  Probably the tagline With so many business names out there and many more goods and services, memorable differentiation is key. Think about it, can you remember the name of your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant?  You will more than likely remember it as ‘eggs and bacon’, or ‘the nacho platter’.  This applies to many things we spend our money on.

Taglines that are memorable position your offering in the mind of your target audience.  Taglines are the key ingredient that will make your business, product, or service memorable above all others.  Taglines are what make certain cereals stand out and sell better than others.  Taglines position particular automobiles to be dependable: “Built Ford Tough” or perhaps the exceptional: Land Rover “Go beyond.

It’s unclear when the first tagline was ever used. However we do know that in 1907, a coffee company used a slogan stating their brand was “good to the last tiny drop.”  That slogan was used well into the 1980s. Maxwell House proved a great tagline withstands the test of time.  Others have had similar success stories following a few simple principles.  [Read more…]

Advertising that Clicks!

Advertising that Clicks!
by Andrew Szabo

If the “Internet changed everything,” then by definition, advertising on the Internet changed how we market. Brand-building is passé and straight selling is in; we’ve moved from “spray and pray” to ROI; from boring banners to targeted, content-rich communications; users tune out the irrelevant and engage in “permission” marketing.

“Like almost everyone else, advertisers are logging on. Advertising spending on the Internet will rise from $3.3 billion in 1999 to $33 billion by 2004, roughly 8% of all advertising, according to predictions by Forrester Research, a high-tech consultancy. A third of this will be spent outside North America, compared with 15% today. Whereas television audiences are falling, the popularity of the Web is rising rapidly. Three years from now, as many as 250 million people may well be online around the world.” – The Economist, October 1999

Everyone in marketing today is talking of the Web as a new advertising medium, but few appear to know how to make the best use of it. Most still “spray and pray,” throwing money at the Web in the hope of reaching a mass audience and building a brand, just as they did in the broadcast world. Unfortunately, this diminishes one of the Internet’s most powerful attributes: that it is interactive and relational by nature. By allowing users and marketers to talk directly with each other, in real time, advertisers can discover what someone browsing on the Internet is looking at and, by tracking such behavior, what their real interests might be. They can instantly put forward a custom-made offer. It is my contention that the Internet will on an unprecedented scale become for many organizations the delivery mechanism that truly delivers on the original 1:1 marketing promise.

The Internet may also instantly reveal whether an advertisement is working through Online review monitoring services. Although this idea terrifies some agencies and marketing consultants, not The Marketing Chef! We are eager to measure something that has in  traditional marketing been largely guesswork. For the first time, we can truly  measure a client’s marketing return on investment. And by more effectively  communicating the right message, to the right target audience efficiently,  you should also save money.

How people use the Web is changing. Now that the novelty of randomly exploring the World Wide Web has diminished, “click-through” rates (CTR) on banners have dropped to as little as 0.5% of the times a banner is displayed. Susan Bratton, a vice president at Excite, a Web portal, complains that the worst advertisements are “endlessly looping, strobing, cheesy banners that obnoxiously scream out a free offer.” But users are more interested than ever in content. Some of the most effective advertisements are such examples as links in book reviews to the website of Amazon. People are starting to use the Internet with more purpose.

Yet novelty on the Web is easily imitated and soon wears off. Most marketers will continue to rely on offline media to build their brands. IBM, the second-biggest advertiser on the Internet in 1998, says that those who think the Web is for building brands are “kidding themselves.” Dot-coms and Dot- bombs especially, found that branding needed coordinated on- and offline campaigns. New brands need to be promoted where most of the people are:  offline.

In addition, we are beginning to see a new phenomenon: “Website distribution.” Instead of attempting to lure users to one’s website, marketers are placing the relevant parts of their site in a rich-media banner or an e-mail sent directly to the target audience. The banner, e-mail or content/link is the “electronic envoy” of your business. For example, users can see video clips and views of the different Lexus models, get a brochure and find the nearest dealer, without ever visiting Toyota’s main website. Similarly, Sony Pictures promoted their film, “Muppets from Space,” using a banner that allowed users to download a free Muppets screensaver, shows a trailer and offers a game, all within the banner.

To direct the right message to the right audience requires what I call “customer knowledge.” As collaborators with our clients, we need to understand not only the target’s demographics (details such as age, income, address, position, etc.) but also the psychographics of the user’s browsing and shopping habits, considering if the user gets more motivated to shop when there are offers and discounts available on websites like Raise. As a consequence, the phenomenon of “permission marketing” is becoming a driving force in attainment of customer knowledge. It empowers the user to enter into an interesting new advertising value proposition: the exchange of personal information and preferences for receiving advertising that is personally relevant. Several examples of these alliances between advertising and the consumer have become very successful: My Points, ClickRewards, as well as individual websites like E-trade.

In conclusion, it is apparent that marketing using the Web medium not only requires a paradigm shift in new thinking but an adaptability to the very nature of the way the Web behaves. Just when we begin to gain understanding of the medium, we can fully expect that it has or will change. The Web changes everything or everything within the Web is changing? We look forward to being your collaborators in thinking and creatively making your Web strategy an integral part of your marketing success.

Do You Know Your Right Mix?

KNOW YOUR RIGHT MIX?
781 words – Less than 5 minutes to read

Most of you are familiar with the U.S. food pyramid — you know, that pyramid of recommended amounts of the different types of food: so many servings of fruit and veggies, so much meat, a certain amount of grains, a bit of fat. Today we’re going to talk about its business equivalent: the marketing mix.

The food pyramid tells us the variety and proportions we need to achieve to be healthy. A marketing mix tells us the same thing for our companies. There are thousands of types of food, but they all fit into the categories on the pyramid. While there are over 160 marketing instruments in use today, they too fit into categories. Just as there are different food groups (dairy, meat, fruit, etc.), there are different marketing groups, and each meet a different requirement that companies need to stay fit.

Now, while the food pyramid shows the general guidelines, different people may have different needs. A pregnant woman will need to eat differently than an elderly heart patient. A child has different needs than a teenager; a weight lifter must eat differently than a marathoner. Likewise, different companies have different marketing needs.

Group 1: The Basics
The Basics are…well, you know. These things are foundational, they come almost as soon as you decide to open your doors and sell something to somebody. Examples of basic ingredients include a name, business card, logo, tagline, graphic identity, stationary, URL, etc. Every company should have these type of Basics as the foundational level of their company’s marketing mix. You can’t do business without these prerequisites.

Group 2: The Interrupters
Most companies must fight for their target audience’s attention. Individuals receive more information, messages and images now than ever before in history. To be heard, marketing has to interrupt. You know you have a good interrupter if your prospect does a double take, clicks on your banner ad, or stops flipping through channels in order to watch your commercial. It doesn’t matter how good the rest of your marketing mix is if you never get their attention, so this should be a large portion of the pyramid for most companies. You say you’re fortunate enough to be completely unique or selling to a captive audience? Then bless your heart, you don’t have to worry about this one as much. But for the rest of us, Interrupters are critical.

Group 3: The Informatives
Some products need no explanation. What you see is what you get, there’s nothing mysterious or different about them. Most businesses have to work for it, though. They have to convey information about their product, service and/or company before people will . Informatives might be a big proposal, a video demonstration or a slick brochure. But it could just be the word “NEW!” on the packaging. Informative ingredients establish your credibility (think a radio interview or website), display your unique status (the only organically-grown wart-remover!), increase interest (wow, a widget can do that?) and move the conversation from your weakness to your strength (we may be more expensive, but only because we refuse to use sweatshops). If your product’s distinction isn’t immediately obvious, your pyramid needs enough Informatives to establish you as the clear choice.

Group 4: The Interactors
This could also be called the “Nordstrom” group. The Interactors are all about the customer experience. Obviously, it includes the level of customer service your employees show your clients, but it also includes how clean your store or office is, the on-hold message they have to listen to when they call (and how long they have to listen to it) and how easy and understandable your manuals, policies and website are. If you’ve ever walked away from a purchase, frustrated that you couldn’t find a cashier, or vowed never to return to a company that didn’t stand by its guarantee, you know the importance of the Interactors.

Group 5: The Closers
Every salesperson knows the importance of “The Close”. Your local bookstore probably has three shelves of books about how to present, negotiate and close the sale. Here’s where it all pays off — but it’s too crucial to coast now. Even businesses whose customers initiate and drive the close can build relationships, get contact information or up-sell during the close (“Would you like fries with that?”).

Trying to use all 160+ marketing ingredients would be as absurd as eating a single bite of every food at the grocery store. Instead, determine the marketing mix that best suits your business, then handpick the choicest selection of ingredients to ensure your company is strong and continues growing. Here’s to your marketing health!


Additional informaion about the different groups of ingredients can be found on the Strategy disk (disk one) of my recently released 5 CD set, Foundations to Irresistible Marketing.

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The Most Powerful Marketing Action You Can Take: A Strategic Trip

THE MOST POWERFUL MARKETING ACTION YOU CAN TAKE: A STRATEGIC TRIP
983 words – Less than 5 minutes to read

Imagine for a moment that you’re planning your first trip to Greece. You call a friend, who says “Greece — wonderful! I just took a cruise there. All you need are a few swimsuits!” A business associate hears where you’re going and says, “I love Greece. Be sure to bring hiking boots.” The professor who lives next door warns you, “I went for an archeology conference. Take enough paper and several pens — I almost ran out.” You take all the good advice and pack your suitcase. When you arrive, you don your swimsuit and hiking boots, and grab your paper and pens — for your ski trip on the slopes of Parnassos.

I know, you’re thinking the whole scenario is absurd. Nobody would spend that much money, have that much time to plan, and have this once-in-a-lifetime trip, and blow it by making inappropriate choices based on other people’s trips. But people do it with their companies — where the stakes are a lot higher than a ruined vacation — all the time.

A business will see a “great deal” on a newspaper ad and feel like they can’t pass it up — even though the company’s prospects don’t read that paper. Somebody at a network lunch mentions they got great results using a late night infomercial, and four different CEOs call their marketing departments on the way to the office. A retailer gets on the blogging bandwagon, and the unplanned blather tears down the image they’ve cultivated for years.

What’s the cause for these missteps which, at best, are a waste of money and, at worst, do irreparable damage? The lack of a marketing strategy. A company’s strategy is foundational. If you don’t have one, go clear your calendar for the rest of the day and get one. It’s that important.

In order to determine your company’s marketing strategy, do our 2×5 analysis: two topics, five questions each. They seem simple, but dig deep. Call in people from your office — heck, call some of your clients or vendors if you need to. Do what you must to discover the answers to these questions.

Topic 1: Your Company
Ask yourself the following questions about the business:

  1. Who are we? What is your brand personality? What’s your company’s identity? Look at your key people, your culture, projects where the company has excelled, the clients you attract and why. Craft a brand identity that is compelling to your ideal customer and that authentically fits who you are and what you do.
  2. What are we selling? What are you offering? What are the products, services, benefits and emotions you provide?
  3. Why are we in business? Go to your mission statement, vision, values and goals. Examine the unspoken values as well as the published ones. Compare the original vision to the ideal the company aims for today. How do these fit in your marketing plan?
  4. Where is the competition positioned? What positions have been taken by competitors, and what haven’t? What characteristic are already “owned” by a major competitor? How do you differ from the competition, and how are you similar?
  5. How do we differ? This is your Unique Selling Proposition — or better yet, your Extraordinary Value Proposition. What do you do that is credibly, sustainably, energetically your own?

Topic 2: Your Message
Ask yourself these questions about what you should communicate.

  1. Who is our target audience? Do you know who your ideal client is? What does a qualified prospect look like? Do you know their demographics? If it’s an organization, what are its characteristics? Most importantly, what “pain” does your ideal client feel that you can help cure?
  2. Why are we communicating? Why are you talking? What is it that you want to say? Develop your message and your core story. Everyone in your organization should be able to communicate your core story in 30 seconds and 5 minutes, with key players able to deliver it in a 15 minute conversation and a 45 minute presentation as well.
  3. What are we going to invest? Time to put your money where your marketing is. How much are you willing to spend now, and how much on the long term?
  4. How should we communicate? Given who you are and who your clients are, what marketing ingredients make sense? What media matches your message? What media conflicts with the image or message you’re trying to portray? Commit to a “hands-off” policy for whatever doesn’t fit — no matter who talks it up, no matter how good a deal you can get.
  5. When will we use the methods? Figure out your priorities. What’s urgent, what should be done in the next 6 months, what needs to be done sometime in the future? I suggest creating a rolling 90-day marketing calendar to keep the momentum going.

A marketing strategy will save you money, because it prevents throwing money into ineffective marketing tactics. It will prevent public perception missteps, because it will give you and all your employees guidance on who the company is and who it’s not. It will help you uncover opportunities, spend wisely, communicate consistently and attract your ideal customer over and over again.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll tell you outright, strategy is my passion. Nothing excites me more than to see an organization transform through my proven strategic process. And the process generates results. Whether it’s opening up a whole new market for a credit union, taking a portable air conditioning company from 8 straight quarters of declining sales to a 42% increase in sales over 12 months or helping a technology company obtain 7 million in new business, it works. If you don’t have a comprehensive, authentic marketing strategy, or if yours needs to be updated, take care of it now. It’s the most important thing you’ll do.

Here’s another action step you can take: Start your year off right by getting MORE business! Watch your sales soar as you apply the ideas, concepts and practical action-steps from Andrew’s newly released “Foundations to Irresistible Marketing,” a 5 CD set and 180 page workbook. The secrets to Strategy, Publicity, Referrals, Networking and Sales are revealed to make your marketing irresistible. In addition, your purchase will provide 720 meals, enough to feed 24 orphans for 1 month at a designated Children’s Hope Chest Care Point facility in Swaziland, Africa; which has the highest AIDS rate in the world. So, when you invest in “Foundations to Irresistible Marketing,” you will not only transform your business but you will transform the lives of starving orphans. Click here to learn more.

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Building Relationships with Customers

Building Relationships with Customers
by Andrew Szabo

The nineties heralded the shift from product-centricity (selling what a company has) to customer-centricity (fulfilling customer wants and needs). This has allowed firms to not only serve large market segments but also small niches and thus increase their target market universe.

What does this take? A new value-exchange proposition, the development and management of customer relationships and loyalty, and marketing to the individual  potentially on a mass scale. To succeed in this new environment of constant change and instability requires new information, a new level of customer knowledge. Knowledge that is generated expressly for the decision at hand, not information created for another purpose entirely and then massaged on a “best can do” basis.

At The Marketing Chef we are strong proponents of relationship management and the role of strategic marketing communications to effectively support our clients’ marketing goals. In the last six years much has been written on the subject. From Peppers & Rodgers seminal work: “The One to One Future”, first published in 1993 to Bain & Co’s Frederick Reichheld business classic: “The Loyalty Effect”, and from the relationship marketing guru of Silicon Valley, Regis McKenna’s “Relationship Marketing” to great HBR articles by Professor Len Schlesinger: “Realize your customers’ full profit potential”, and W. Earl Sasser’s “Why satisfied customers defect”.

I know it’s hard to keep up in this day and age, so here is a good primer that I came across that summarizes several of the aforementioned authors’ work. It is located on a German Website at the University of Mannheim:

http://webrum.uni-mannheim.de/bwl/grether/Alba.html#_Toc362507130

Making Pay-Per-Click Pay

MAKING PAY-PER-CLICK PAY
790 words – Less than 4 minutes to read

For large and small business alike, pay-per-click advertising can be a nimble marketing instrument with high ROI. It can also be a huge waste of money. A few tricks make all the difference. This week, we’re talking to Mark Shead, President of Xeric Corporation about capitalizing on pay-per-click’s flexibility, feedback and focus.

First, let’s have an overview of how Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads work. PPCs are advertisements that are tied to certain keywords and phrases. For instance, a company that makes a seasickness patch might display a banner ad above a blogger’s tirade about a horrible cruise. Many PPCs are linked to Internet searches. If you’ve ever seen “sponsored links” at the top of search engine results, you’ve seen a PPC. And if you’ve ever clicked on one of those links, you just made that search engine some money, because (you guessed it), the advertiser pays per click. The order of appearance is determined by auction, where the highest bidder would appear first, followed by the second, and so on (but remember, they only pay that amount when and if the ad is clicked on.)

FLEXIBILITY
Pay-per-click sounds intimidating to many people who haven’t investigated it, so they’re often surprised to find that PPC is remarkably responsive and a great bargain. In the realm of marketing, there are sculptures skillfully chiseled in stone, like your brand identity. There are masterpiece paintings, that aren’t quite as hardy as a sculpture, but also take time to craft: an ad campaign, perhaps. Then there are your 2 year-old’s scribbles, created in seconds, prolific in number, and at best, destined for a few weeks on the fridge. PPC, then, is the refrigerator scribble of the marketing world.

There are several reasons it’s so flexible. First, it’s cheap. I mean, really, really cheap. You can test an ad on the web for a few days for, say, between $1 and $5 per day, then scrap it or change it, and throw it back on the “cyber-fridge door” to see how the new version does.

FEEDBACK
How do you decide whether or not to keep a certain “ad-scribble”? Feedback, of course. I’m not talking about the “No, really, I did like your ad, honey,” comments that your supportive spouse gives you. I’m talking analytics: hard data, numbers, statistics, facts and trends. OK, breathe. You don’t have to do this part. The nice techies at your search engine company will have an analytics package that will tell you things like how many people are clicking on your ad, how many clickers reach your predetermined goal (usually a sale, but perhaps the completion of a form or subscription to a newsletter). This allows you to test keywords and phrases to find the ones that maximize profits for you.

Interestingly enough, Mark points out that you don’t have to understand the trends, just use them. “The Analytics find patterns you can’t explain, but can use,” he says. You might find out that one phrase “crimson feather boas” works better than another, “red boas.” You may never know about all the snake lovers who clicked on your site with dreams of red-spotted constrictors, only to find your precious plumes, but it doesn’t matter, because now you know which phrase connects you to your customers.

FOCUS
You know that I’m a great proponent of targeting your audience, but PPC takes this to new levels. When you think keywords, Mark recommends brainstorming with the thoughts “If I were looking for this product, how would I describe it?” and “If I had a problem, and I didn’t know that this product was the solution, what would I search for?” Be specific, because the more you narrow your keyword phrases, the more on target you are (and therefore a higher sales to click ratio).

Focus on narrow slivers of internet users, but choose several of those slivers. For instance, if you sell super glue, you might want to attach an ad to the phrases “super glue” “adhesive” and “Cyanoacrylate.” But Mark points out that you also might want an ad with the key words “teacup” “broken” and “fix.” And for the CSI lovers out there, “super glue fuming,” “criminal investigation” and “latent fingerprints.”

You can focus PPC ads by geography, too, so your concert is only advertised to computers operating in your region, your grocery store only to your city, and your babysitting service to your subdivision. And you can limit when the ads run, so your nightclub ad only shows up on the first Thursday and Friday of each month (after people just got paid and are planning their weekend) to the hippest neighborhoods in the city. Talk about targeting!

So get out there and stick something on Google’s refrigerator door!

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Is Your Publicist Worth It?

IS YOUR PUBLICIST WORTH IT?
679 words – Less than 3 minutes to read

Everybody knows that a good P.R. specialist can generate exposure for your company that’s more cost-effective, authoritative and even seven times more credible. But what do P.R. specialists do for you, and how do you know if yours is a seedy spin-doctor or a professional who’s integral to your team? I sat down with Susan Morrow, publicist extraordinaire and my partner for 8 years to uncover the mysteries of the P.R. world. I want to know why she thinks she can do that better than the business itself. I mean, aren’t insiders better able to relay that story than an outsider? Not necessarily, says she. There are benefits to having an outsider tell the tale. There are several strengths a good P.R. specialist will bring to the table: they communicate your story, know the people and know the industry.

COMMUNICATE YOUR STORY
“Every company has a story to tell.” I’m on the phone with Susan, whose voice–despite the long day and the late hour–speeds up with enthusiasm. “My job is to communicate that story.” While it’s true that many publicists don’t follow the client’s marketing strategy in their work (who hasn’t heard of the clichéd uneasy relationship between publicity and marketing), the best ones do. P.R., according to Susan, should function as one piece of the reputation-making whole. She says that without the roadmap of a marketing strategy, P.R. efforts are often inconsistent and lacking in credibility. Make sure your publicist works with your strategy, or find someone who will.

KNOW THE PEOPLE
Many companies (and press release “farms”, for that matter) create a press release and send it to every news outlet they can think of. These companies often purchase huge contact lists and send reams of faxes and buckets of emails indiscriminately. The problem? It just doesn’t work. Faxes end up in the trash with the others from thousands of other companies doing the exact same thing and most of the emails end up in journalists’ spam folders. And those contact lists? Most are obsolete, incorrect and overpriced. If a P.R. specialist recommends these “buckshot” approaches, she isn’t worth the money you’re paying her.

It turns out that the old maxim is true. It really is who you know. Susan explains why. To get any attention, your pitch has to be targeted to an interested party. It might take you days of researching to find the name of a journalist who once wrote on the topic, then to find an angle they might be interested in, then to get them to take your call, then to find out that they’ve moved to sports or obituaries or a different organization altogether. You’re back at square one—rinse and repeat. A publicist worth her salt knows the best publications for your story, has a rolodex big enough to anchor the QE2, and is a couple of phone calls away from just the right journalist. If your publicist is a stellar one, she has long-nurtured relationships with many journalists who trust her and her leads. And because she’s a third-party (not you), the information she gives the journalist is automatically more trustworthy than if you pitched it yourself.

THEY KNOW THE INDUSTRY
News outlets exists in a strange world. Their demand for stories is constant, but supply is overabundant one week and slow the next. They appreciate story ideas, but refuse to be a pawn. They prefer a proven, dependable source over one they’ve never worked with. They don’t have time for under-prepared or unprofessional pitches. They use jargon and key words, and need to see the hook up front. They can use your story, but only if the angle is right. Navigating all these (and more) unwritten rules can be baffling. To get your money’s worth, find a P.R. specialist who is a veteran industry-insider who already knows how to play the game, speak the language, and supply stories that meet the journalist’s demands.

If you find your publicist is failing to delivering any of these advantages, its time to move on.

When is it the Right Time to Market?

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO MARKET?
1256 Words – Less than 4½ minutes to read

BOOM OR BUST?
Yesterday, CNN reported the Feds were still concerned the US economy was overheating; this morning NPR news quoted an economic pundit “fearing” an economic downturn, and multiple media outlets were reporting on Cisco’s better-than-expected earnings and bullish 12 month forecast as a positive indicator that the technology sector is healthy and growing. So what are we to make of all this? How do you react to economy changes both real and forecasted?

The news caused me to pause and return to the perennial question about timing one’s marketing activities. When is the best time to market & how should one respond to economic upturns, downturns, plateaus and valleys?

Ideally, you want your business to thrive irrespective of the economic climate and clearly some businesses do much better than others. History bears witness to the successful organizations that thrive when the economic tide wanes and outperform others when the tide raises all boats. I believe three key principles stand between the triumphant and the regretful:

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I am amazed how few organizations can accurately describe their ideal target audience.
We all know that we can’t be all things to all people. Yet out of fear from alienating a particular group or segment, we try to accommodate all, diluting our message to the point of irrelevancy. Instead of being 20% relevant to 80% of your audience, I suggest become100% relevant to your ideal audience, the center of your target, the golden circle.

Although this “bulls-eye” may only represent less than 10% of your universe, your marketing arrows will invariably hit the red zone that possess 70-80% of the “ideal” attributes and can be excellent customers nonetheless. By focusing on the center you will nail BOTH the ideal and those who closely resemble the ideal. Such penetration marketing is like cutting through butter with a laser knife as opposed to dusting the outside with a little hot air.

Practical application tip #1: Paint the picture of your ideal customer. Analyze your past customers to see how they match up to the ideal. What are their attributes? What made them such good customers? What are their needs, issues, challenges, and decision-making criteria? Then target your marketing accordingly to attract more prospects that look like your best past clients.

P.S. Sometimes your ideal clients in a downturn are different from those in an upturn. For example, in the travel industry, the business client is critical for airlines in a downturn; without them they are “toast”. In a boom, the marginal traveler provides additional revenues with incremental better margins.

ZIG WHEN OTHERS ZAG

Following the herd means you are destined to forever be a part of the herd. The alternatives
are twofold: Lead the herd or Leave the herd.
This is one of the key principles ensconced in Trout & Ries’ classic marketing tome: 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. If you can’t take a differentiated leadership position, then create and lead a new category (or sub-category). Hence the rise of “fusion cuisine” restaurants in the last 20 years. Asian, American and European culinary traditions have been brought together to create unique combinations heretofore not seen on the planet. Anyone for salad with crisp nori topping, and a misocilantro vinaigrette?

New categories and sectors are being created regularly. For example, ten years ago, categories like broadband, online music, online dating, online training, e-commerce, e-learning and e-books had yet to be formulated … and that’s just naming a few. Now we have mobile commerce, many category components to the virtual office and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group vying to be the leader in commercial space tourism.

Another approach is to create a radical point of differentiation through innovation and /or marketing. Despite the fact that most physical-therapy treatments are reimbursable by health insurance, more than 90 percent of massage therapy sessions are paid out of the client’s pocket. One local Registered Massage Therapist, Dan Puig (RMT), not only has a nine-year trained background in the health field in anatomy, physiology, and surgical procedures, but he took the trouble to create the necessary strategic partnerships to receive third-party insurance reimbursement. The result? He has carved out a niche for himself as a registered medical massage therapist who not only is qualified to fulfill a doctor’s for a massage but also will make the necessary insurance claim on a person’s behalf so he or she only pays the deductible.

Practical application tip #2: Define your category or niche leadership.
ALWAYS BE MARKETING
One of the greatest failures in marketing businesses and organizations is the lack of consistency and continuity.he strategic objective of their marketing is to have their clients, prospects, referral sources and other stakeholders thing of them first, often and well. One of the three key factors to achieve this is to constantly invest and build into the relationships through relevant, persuasive and compelling communication.

I constantly stress to my clients that that the strategic objective of their marketing is to have their clients, prospects, referral sources and other stakeholders thing of them first, often and well. One of the three key factors to achieve this is to constantly invest and build into the relationships through relevant, persuasive and compelling communication.

It’s like a marriage relationship. It is my objective that my beloved wife, Melissa, thinks of me first, often and well. If she does not, then I am in deep trouble!

This takes a constant investment in the relationship. After all 20+ years ago, I made a promise. “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s Holy ordinance.” Well our marriage has been best when I have invested in it irrespective of whether times were good or bad. Likewise, our marketing cannot be “episodic.” It needs to have the continuous “drizzle” of good communications to keep the relationship healthy and for our target markets to think of us first, often and well.

Like in a marriage or family relationship, don’t just think of the obvious … I often recommend to husbands to surprise their brides with flowers not just on their wives’ birthdays or anniversaries. Likewise, “surprise” your clients with a handwritten note or an article you came across that is relevant to them. I can almost guarantee you will be one of the few in their business relationships that do that and you will be well remembered.

Practical application tip #3: In the next 48 hours send a client or prospect a trade or magazine article that pertains to them, (and share the result with us!).

FINAL THOUGHTS

So my counsel is …don’t worry about the economic pundits … market in the good times and in the bad. You can take away significant market share from your competitors in a declining economy and you can take more than your fair share in an expanding economy. It all depends on the quality of your market. Your target market might need refinement and your message might alter. But leaders, by definition don’t follow. In marketing that means you must carve out new categories and niches. Final examples … in the early 80’s downturn, I worked with Hyatt Hotels and I marveled at how they grew at the expense of their competitors. Also, I had the good fortune to work with several hi-tech companies in the late 90’s such as Symphion and others. Their marketing was intelligent and as a result they did not crash when the bust came – they retrenched, re-positioned and survived when 99% crashed.

So it all comes back to an intelligent comprehensive marketing strategy that will make your marketing effective in good times or bad.
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“.. people like Ralph Larsen at Johnson & Johnson, Richard Ziman at Arden Realty, Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide Financial, and Chad Holliday at DuPont—exhibit a highly sophisticated degree of business cycle literacy. They have built and run organizations that are strategically and tactically business cycle sensitive, and they are quite willing to engage in countercyclical and often contrarian behavior in anticipation of economic turbulence.” ~ Peter Navarro,
The Well-Timed Strategy
: Managing the Business Cycle for Competitive Advantage

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More Business Decisions Occur Over Lunch…

“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”
~ Peter Drucker